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Time Charts Time Management Best Practice

Time charts are a tool used during the weekly planning process to help organize your time around the major result areas in your life. A time chart is simply a weekly view of your schedule where you allocate time to “activity zones” rather than specific projects.

Time charts are based on the time mapping concept developed by Julie Morgenstern in Time Management From the Inside Out as a way to apply her expertise in organizing spaces to the organization of time.

According to Morgenstern, the key to organizing any space is to give every item a “home,” a place where it logically belongs. To organize a space, you divide it into “activity zones” based on the type of activities that take place, and then assign each item a home in one of the activity zones.

To apply this idea to organizing time, you can divide your schedule into different “activity type zones” and assign each of your activities to one of the zones. For example, you could define a “health/exercise” activity zone where you would assign activities such as exercising at the gym, or going on a hike.

When organizing a space, the activity zones represent the best places to store items associated with activities in that zone. Similarly, the activity zones in a time chart represent the best times for each type of activity in your schedule.

When creating time charts, it is important to pick activity zones that reflect your key result areas, to choose the best times for the different activities, and to allocate time to each zone in a balanced way based on what is most important to you.

These are some sample activity types that you can use when developing your time chart:

  • Health and Fitness

  • Romance

  • Children

  • Family

  • Fun

  • Friends

  • Relaxation

  • Personal Development

  • Spiritual

  • Financial

  • Career

  • Community/Legacy

  • Home

  • Work

  • Planning

You don't have to include all these different areas in your time chart every single week because it may not give you enough time to fit all these different activity types.

If that is the case, you can create multiple time charts and vary them from week to week. For example, in one week you may want to focus on relaxation and fun, while another week you focus on your career and finances.

By using multiple time charts you not only achieve greater focus and balance over a period of several weeks, but add spice and variety to your life.

Here is a sample time chart displayed in the Achieve Planner weekly schedule view to give you a better idea of what type of information is contained in a typical time chart.

Achieve Planner sample time chart shown in the background of the weekly schedule

Achieve Planner sample time chart (click on image to enlarge)

Achieve planner makes it easy to create multiple time charts and quickly switch between them. The various color coded "activity type zones" show up in the background of your weekly schedule.

Time charts are also a good place to capture routine activities that you do each week such as going to the gym to exercise, paying your bills, meeting with your staff, or your weekly tennis match. These can be included directly in your time chart to block out specific times for these activities.

Ideal Week Time Chart

The weekly planning process starts with a time chart representing your ideal week. This time chart should be organized based on how you would like to spend your time this week to make the best use of it.

If you have multiple time charts, with each one giving priority to different result areas, just pick the one that you want to focus on for the coming week.

Over time, the weekly view allows you to see your time use patterns and can reveal potential imbalances in the types of activities you have chosen.

Your ideal week time chart is just a guide, not a strict schedule that you must adhere to. There will be weeks where life throws unexpected opportunities or crises your way that may require you to adjust your schedule.

Your ideal week time chart simply reflects how you would most like to spend your time if everything went according to plan.

You should periodically revisit your ideal week time charts to keep them current with changes in your life. As your priorities, goals, or interests change, your time charts should adjust to reflect these changes.

Using Energy Cycles

One important application of the time chart is to discover and take advantage of your own energy cycles and personal preferences. Part of the reason for using a time chart is to discover the best times to do certain types of activities.

The “best time” for anything is extremely subjective and can vary greatly from one person to the next. For example, some people like to get up at 5:00am to go exercise, while others prefer to sleep in and exercise after work; both are equally valid ways to use your time.

Many of us have certain regular times during the day when we feel fresh, energized, and can fully focus and concentrate on a task, and there are times when we feel more lethargic.

We can take advantage of these cycles by scheduling our top priority projects during the times when we are most energetic and focused, and schedule less demanding tasks during our energy lows.

For example, if you notice that typically you get a bit lethargic around 1:30pm, schedule some routine work like processing your inflows, reading e-mail, returning calls, or meeting with your staff around this time.

In the sample time chart above, the work activity zone contains “H (Work)” and “L (Work)” regions corresponding to your high and low performance time periods.

The Time Management  eBook contains much more information on time charts and how to use them as part of your weekly planning routine. Get it now!

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If you'd like additional help, time management coaching and life coaching are both a great resource to implement these ideas and improve your time management skills. You can use personal coaching or group coaching depending on your needs.

In a corporate setting, executive coaching is also very valuable to help you be more productive and perform at your best.

 

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